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Dan Forest[This post has been updated — the original version had an incorrect link]. Remember that kid on the grade school playground who hated losing so much that he’d grab the ball and go home when the game stopped going his way? It’s seems a safe bet that North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest was such a child.

The man who is also pretty clearly North Carolina’s most reactionary statewide elected official in memory dispensed another ultraconservative pearl of wisdom recently when he told a radio host in Asheville that North Carolina will probably have to change the basics of state marriage laws now that same sex couples can partake.

After referring the “so-called right to get married” of same sex couples and explaining how liberal judges were misinterpreting the U.S. Constitution and acting to “legislate from the bench,” Forest, who is not a lawyer, agreed with radio host Peter Kaliner that North Carolina would probably have to follow Alabama’s lead and change state marriage laws. Recently, the Alabama Senate approved a bill that would change how the state deals with marriage so that rather than having state officials issue licenses, the state would simply register marriages after they’re witnessed by a private party.

When Kaliner asked Forest what he thought about such an approach, Forest said it was probably “a next step in North Carolina” if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage. (Click here to listen to the entire depressing interview — the relevant portion is at around the 5:20 mark).

As to what all the implications of such a radical change would mean for people who no longer received a marriage license — either with respect to children, insurance, recognition in other states, etc… — is anybody’s guess, but it doesn’t seem to bother Forest, who would rather do away with state sanctioned marriages completely than let people he doesn’t approve of enjoy their benefits.

Commentary

Dan ForestYou’ve got to hand it to Lt. Governor Dan Forest. The Lite Guv is clearly the most conservative statewide elected official in North Carolina in decades — especially when it comes to social issues, where in his less-well-guarded moments, he can make Pat Robertson sound like a secular progressive.

And yet, despite this, Forest is also a very slick and ambitious politician. Maybe, it’s being the son of a longtime member of Congress, but whatever the explanation, Forest can be very skilled at cloaking his extremist views with mainstream-sounding language.

A classic example is his “I support teachers” specialty license plate idea that he is plugging this week. What could sound more wholesome and make for better P.R. than “supporting” teachers?

The only problem, of course, is that the whole idea of “supporting” teachers by raising private donations at $50 a throw so that a foundation can mete them out to teachers in dribs and drabs is an absurd idea. Not only will it amount to a drop in the bucket, it undermines the very idea of how public schools ought to be funded and assessed — i.e. by the taxpayers and the professionals they employ.

But, of course, this shouldn’t come as any real surprise. As one of the most ardent champions of school privatization via vouchers (Forest’s own kids have been home schooled) and regressive tax policies that have undermined funding for what folks on the Right like to call “government schools,” Forest has been pushing the kind of slickly packaged, far right agenda that would warm the hearts of the Koch brothers for many years.

Let’s hope North Carolinians quickly see through this cynical effort to burnish/soften the image of an ambitious politician who could, if he really supported public school teachers, find several more effective ways to do so.

Commentary

poverty916-1Today’s nominee for most maddening, hypocritical and self-serving tradition in the world of politics is the spectacle of politicians who dedicate the their professional lives to de-funding public services — especially those that serve people  in need — solemnly preaching to us on holidays and/or when the weather is bad about the importance of helping the poor.

Here’s North Carolina’s ultra-right, anti-public safety net Lieutenant Governor this morning on Facebook:

“With these incredibly low temperatures sweeping across our state, let us not forget all of those less fortunate than us. Last month First Lady McCrory and Alice Forest teamed up with the Durham Rescue Mission for a canned food drive. We have been informed that over 2,500 cans of food were collected, and nearly $2,000 donated!

With the cold weather we are experiencing this week, the Durham Rescue Mission is expecting an influx of people. Thank you to to everyone who donates their time and resources to causes like this across our state. Your generosity will ensure that nutritious meals will be available for all who come.”

Isn’t that special? The same fellow who crusades on an almost daily basis against Medicaid expansion, unemployment insurance and any number of other essential safety net programs that would actually make a difference for low income people is all about tossing a few cans of food (and maybe a night in a shelter) to the poor when the weather is bad.

Chris Fitzsimon rightfully described this noxious phenomenon this past Thanksgiving as “cynically suspending the blame.”

“But there’s a disconnect somehow in the holiday message and the rhetoric we hear from many political leaders and right-wing pundits the rest of the time.

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News

Same-sex marriages may be happening in North Carolina — thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review the Fourth Circuit’s Bostic decision, allowing such marriages — but one day soon that might change, Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest suggests in a recent blog post on his website.

In the article (written under his signature but posted by Kami Mueller), the lieutenant governor defends his position that the states, and not the federal government, have the sole constitutional authority to make decisions about marriage.

A majority of justices have said as much, Forest adds, pointing to language from Justice Anthony Kennedy in the high court’s 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision and agreed to by the court’s liberal justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan):

The recognition of civil marriages is central to state domestic relations law applicable to its residents and citizens. The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State’s broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the “[p]rotection of offspring, property interests, and the enforcement of marital responsibilities.”

Consistent with this allocation of authority, the Federal Government, through our history, has deferred to state-law policy decisions with respect to domestic relations. . ..

With those words, Forest offers hope that the high court may yet take up a marriage equality case and reverse the tide of same-sex marriages now sweeping the country.

But Forest apparently overlooked Kennedy’s words immediately preceding the quote above, in which the justice points out as a given that state marriage laws must respect a person’s constitutional rights:

In order to assess the validity of that intervention it is necessary to discuss the extent of the state power and authority over marriage as a matter of history and tradition. State laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons, see, e.g., Loving v. Virginia . . . 
And the lieutenant governor may have also forgotten this:  Only four justices need to agree to take a case. If those on the court’s conservative wing (Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) were intent on taking up the marriage equality issue and perhaps tipping their hats to states’ rights, they could have done so in Bostic.
Commentary

As reported on N.C. Policy Watch recently, some advocates on the far right — including North Carolina’s own Lt. Governor — have been pushing the radical idea of late that it’s time for a second American constitutional convention.

For those who haven’t given the idea much thought, the dangers that would accompany such a move may not be readily apparent. Thankfully, veteran national policy analyst Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained them in a recent column for the Washington Post.

As Greenstein noted, such an event could be a disastrous free-for-all:

The Constitution sets no rules for how a constitutional convention would work. What standards determine whether 34 states have called for a convention? Do all resolutions that state legislatures have ever passed count — even if they called for conventions on very different topics, or were passed 50 or 100 years ago, or were later rescinded, as some have been? Oklahoma, for instance, passed a resolution in 1976 calling for a convention but rescinded it in 2009, citing concerns about throwing the Constitution wide open to unknown changes; some proponents argue that Oklahoma should still count anyway. Can that be right? The Constitution is silent on all of these issues.

That’s just the start.  If a convention were called, how many delegates would each state get, and how would they be selected? How long could the convention last? The Constitution provides no guidance on those questions either.

He continued: Read More